2018 Holiday Marketing Insights for a Holly, Jolly Season

Forget the phrase “it’s all about ‘we’ and not ‘I.’” Persado research shows “you” statements landed brands on customers’ nice lists during 2017 holiday marketing campaigns. And the more empowering, the better. Some brands saw 10-15% uplifts on phrases like “you’ve snagged it,” and “you’ve scored.” 

These are just a few of our favorite holiday marketing insights gleaned from last year’s top campaigns in the UK and U.S. Use these tips to get something extra in your stocking (and end-of-year revenue).

‘Tis the Season…

Yes, it’s Christmakwanzakah and New Year’s, but mentioning the holidays separately (or in The OC-inspired mashup) did not show any upticks on clicks, opens or conversions, Persado found. Using festive words like “happy” and “merry” don’t show any lifts, either. For example, “Happy Holidays! You’ve got deals waiting for you” (Excitement + Gratification) yielded a lower open rate than “Shhh, don’t tell: You’ve got deals waiting for you” (Exclusivity + Gratification). Bah humbug. 

Give Thanks

During this time of year, we often look around — at our family, friends, furbabies and homes — and feel so grateful for what we have, even if life can be chaotic. We also like knowing the feeling is mutual among our loved ones — that we’re cared for too. It turns out, brands who evoke the emotion of Gratitude (“Thanks for booking with us! Here’s what you need to know about your stay.”) see big returns (the good kind). The emotion ranked 2nd in the UK and 5th in the US for retail and travel campaigns run in November and December 2017. 

UK 2018 Holiday Marketing Insights: Retail

Control: “Holiday Deals: up to 99% off coupon” 
Winning message: “Hurray! You’ve scored a gift” (Excitement + Achievement) 
Why it worked: Though Excitement (“Hurray!”) ranked 10th out of our 15 emotions during the holiday season, Achievement (“You’ve scored a gift!”) was 6th. The mix gave it a 27% uplift in open rates over this online retailer’s control message, which relied more on promotion than emotion. That’s never the best idea, according to Persado research, which has found that emotional language contributes to about 60% of customer response (opens, clicks and conversions). 

Control: “Save 50% - Half Price Friday!”
Winning message: “You’ve snagged it: here’s your gift” (Achievement + Gratification) 
Why it worked: Achievement (“You’ve snagged it”) tends to perform well all year round, as does Gratification (“here’s your gift”), which ranks third during the holiday season. Gratification is typically low-effort with a high pay-off — it stimulates excitement and focuses on value and/or financial gain (something we could all use during holiday shopping). The result? An uplift of 16% in open rate.

UK 2018 Holiday Marketing Insights: Travel

Control: “Access secret prices” 
Winning message: “Big treat inside: book before it’s too late” (Gratification + Urgency)
Why it worked: Though we typically recommend against using Urgency — no one wants to buy on a deadline and “before it’s too late” is setting one — this hospitality brand made it work by packaging it with Gratification, and it yielded a 15% uplift in clicks. The emotion ranked 5th in travel campaigns for the UK holiday campaigns.  

Control: “Tonight Only: Save up to 50%” 
Winning message: “As a thank you, please enjoy these gifts” (Gratitude)
Why it worked: The holidays are stressful enough without telling people they “must buy something tonight.” But hearing the word “thank you,” which the winning message used to evoke Gratitude, expresses acknowledgment and appreciation in a personal way. If a customer is running in 12 different directions trying to buy the perfect gifts, make their children happy and manage a whirlwind schedule, hearing a brand say “thanks” can bring a smile to their face (and a company a 15% uplift in opens). 

2018 holiday marketing insights uk

US 2018 Holiday Marketing Insights: Retail

Control: “Verified: let us thank you with 40% off”
Winning message: “Major gift announcement: take a look” (Anxiety + Curiosity) 
Why it worked: Curiosity (“take a look”) and Anxiety (“Major gift announcement”) won silver and gold, respectively, in 2017’s US holiday marketing retail campaigns. By decking their subject line with both, this department store saw a 22% uplift in opens. 

Control: “The best prices you’ll find anywhere”
Winning message: “We think you deserve some deals” (Gratitude)
Why it worked: Sure, people love a good deal, but they’re a dime a dozen come holiday season. The emotional language in this popular retail chain’s winning message, compared to the control, better resonated with customers to the tune of a 13% uplift in opens. 

Control: “Cookin’ up deals! Up to 40% off”
Winning message: “Your gift is here!” (Excitement + Gratification)
Why it worked: It might surprise you that Excitement ranked 10th in retail holiday marketing campaigns last year — aren’t people pumped for gifts and family time? Gratification came in at fourth and when the two came together, email magic happened (also known as an uplift of 15% uplift in opens) for this upscale home goods brand. 

Control: “Savings for the win”
Winning message: “You’re getting special holiday <brand name> discounts” (Gratification)
Why it worked: FTW (for the win) had its trendy day in the sun, but even when it was all the rage, it lacked the emotional language customers crave. Telling customers they’re receiving special holiday discounts shows Gratification and is the kind of holiday surprise that warms the heart. It earned this Fortune 500 retailer a 13% uplift in opens.

US 2018 Holiday Marketing Insights: Travel

Control: “Something special in honor of our anniversary”
Winning message: “Announcement: We’re presenting our best fares” (Anxiety + Fascination) 
Why it worked: This global travel brand saw a 7% uplift in opens when they exchanged a subject line with Anxiety, which ranked 2nd in travel holiday campaigns, and Fascination, which ranked 4th. 

Control: “Pack your bag with cheap fares”
Winning message: “Holiday invitation: We’re giving you great deals on packages” (Exclusivity + Gratification) 
Why it worked: The control message used by this cruise line was void of emotion and counted on “cheap fares” to win consumers over. The winning message, which performed 9% better in opens, used top-ranked Gratification and 6th-ranked Exclusivity. 

2018 holiday marketing insights us